Mike Vrabel had his first press conference of the Titans 2020 training camp today as the full team officially reported this morning for the first of their two mandated COVID tests prior to being allowed inside the building. Rookies, quarterbacks, and players with injury designations arrived last Thursday.
Here are some of the highlights from Vrabel’s comments and we will get into the headliner — that first round pick Isaiah Wilson will start camp on the reserve/COVID list and that Jayon Brown would be on PUP — in more detail below.
- Vrabel did confirm that undrafted rookie tackle Anthony McKinney has elected to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season as allowed by the NFL and NFLPA’s agreement for COVID-19 protocol. The Titans head coach also added that he has not heard from any other current players who plan to opt-out, though the deadline for making that decision is August 3rd.
- Part of the Titans approved IDER plan — more about that here — involved rearranging some of the rooms inside the building, including the addition of dividers between lockers, to make sure social distancing can be maintained as required by league rules.
- Asked about adjusting to a training camp with no preseason or joint practices, Vrabel mentioned the possibility of using scrimmages as opportunities to get young guys live reps. He pointed to the format they used at the Nissan Stadium scrimmage last year where players picked teams.
- Vrabel reiterated that outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen will be leading the defensive meetings when he isn’t in the room. That’s not a new development — Vrabel first pointed to Bowen as his second-in-command in June — but it’s worth reminding as we get closer to seeing who ends up serving as defensive playcaller for the Titans post-Dean Pees.
- When asked about UDFAs having a chance to make the roster, Vrabel was adamant that young players would be given the same chance as everyone else. He emphasized that making the roster last year doesn’t mean anything with regards to this year and that his expectation is that players improve every year.
- From a schedule standpoint, Vrabel stated that their first full-team meeting would be August 2nd and their first OTA-style practice would be on August 14th. From now until then they will be progressing through COVID testing and then a strength and conditioning acclimation period that will include some walk-throughs.
- Regarding Derrick Henry’s new contract, Vrabel said he was extremely happy that Jon Robinson and his staff were able to get something done. He called Henry a core player who was among a handful of the most important players on the Titans roster.
- Asked about Jadeveon Clowney, Vrabel said “all I can tell you is that JD is not under contract with the Tennessee Titans right now”.
- Vrabel added that Jayon Brown will be on the PUP list to start training camp and Isaiah Wilson would be added to the reserve/COVID list today.
That last item is obviously the big news here. The reserve/COVID list is a list that is designated for players who test positive for COVID-19 or are quarantining due to coming in close contact with someone who tested positive. We do not know which category Wilson falls in yet, but obviously everyone will be hoping for the best for his health.
From a football standpoint, this means that Wilson will not be eligible to practice with the team or be in the facility until he is cleared medically to return. The NFL has not put a specific timeline on that return from the protocol, but I’m sure it involves multiple negative tests with some time in between.
It’s a bit of a setback for Wilson, who was set to compete with veteran Dennis Kelly for the starting right tackle spot, but you’d hope that he can return to the team prior to the start of real practices on August 14th. If so, he may still be able to push for that starting job before the end of camp.
The other big news item is Jayon Brown going on the PUP. Brown ended the 2019 season with an injured shoulder that was suffered in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs and kept him out of action in the Divisional Round. He returned in a limited capacity against the Chiefs, but was clearly still hampered.
It is also quite possible that the injury to Brown is completely unrelated to that shoulder issue, but we have no other information on other injuries that he may have suffered in the offseason. As usual, PUP during preseason simply means that a player isn’t practicing due to injury. If Brown’s injury lingers into the start of the regular season, the team has the option to transition him to regular season PUP which automatically rules out a return until Week 7 at the earliest.
In the meantime, that injury means additional work for second year linebacker David Long, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Titans.